What’s the one chicken dish that people love to begin their parties with? Something that drips in rich flavours and is most probably light and dry...One that sets the mood right, and gets everyone clung into the groove of the celebration. Is it chicken tikka? Yes, many say so! Good food does wonders to a happy occasion; be it a birthday or any party, get-together, potluck, or a dinner out at a restaurant. Not to brag about chicken tikka, but you will find it on every restaurant menu or party food list, mainly as an appetizer. But it can always be eaten as a side to any meal. This North Indian cuisine has fans from all across the world. I mean, who can say no to a plate of hot and spicy chicken tikkas?
Now, “Tikka” comes from the Turkish word “Tike” meaning “pieces or bits of something.” Tandoori chicken tikka or Murgh tikka comprises cube-shaped, boneless pieces of chicken, marinated in yoghurt (which also hosts a raw medley of spices), and then grilled till they attain a perfect balance between colour and succulency. A dark brown grill with a smoky texture (i.e., a little charred on the edges), yet tender on the inside - is what we will try to achieve with the help of the tandoori chicken recipe given down below. So, let’s dive right into it!
Chicken tikka recipe card
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Resting time (for marination): 1 to 2 hours
Cooking time: 35 to 40 minutes
Total time: 2½ to 3½ hours
Difficulty level: Easy
Calorie intake: 389 calories per serving
- 500 g of boneless, skinless chicken (cut into small cubes or thin slices)
- ½ green bell pepper (or capsicum)
- ½ red bell pepper (even tomato will do, but it has to be deseeded)
- 1 large onion (cubed)
The first marination is to tenderise the chicken pieces slightly using lemon juice. This also prepares a retaining ground for the spices (of the second marinade) to come out and produce their distinct flavours. It is advised to let the mixture sit for 20-30 minutes, as any bit more will only cause the chicken pieces to turn excessively mushy.
- 1 to 2 tbsp (or tablespoon) of lemon juice - or as needed
- 1 tbsp Kashmiri red chilli powder
- 1½ tsp (or teaspoon) salt - or adjust it as per your taste
Now, it’s time for you to bring out the yoghurt and allow it to do its magic. What does it do exactly? It tenderises the cube pieces of chicken naturally. Yes, you don’t need chemical tenderizers anywhere here. Just leave it on the two-step marinations. Moreover, the ginger-garlic paste along with the garam masala will lend a hand in the process. You can let the chicken pieces rest in the second marinade for one hour or more - it can go up to 12 hours if it’s possible (i.e., letting it stay overnight). The more time they spend in the marinade, the more flavorsome they get. And softer and juicier too!
- 1½ tbsp gram flour or besan
- ½ cup hung curd (or Greek yoghurt)
- Salt (as needed)
- 1 tbsp oil (preferably, mustard oil)
- 1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste (or, in the grated form)
- ¾ to 1 tsp red chilli powder or paprika
- ⅛ tsp pepper powder
- ⅛ tsp turmeric
- ½ tbsp Kasuri Methi (or dried fenugreek leaves) - it is optional, though!
- ¾ to 1 tsp garam masala
- ½ tsp coriander powder
At the time of serving:
- 1 to 2 tsp unsalted butter or mustard oil
- 1 tsp chaat masala
How do you prepare the chicken tikka?
- Make sure, you cut the chicken into even pieces. And pat them dry with a kitchen towel before you put them in the marinade.
- Take a bowl and add lemon juice, salt, and Kashmiri red chilli powder to it, (in quantities mentioned above).
- Mix all the ingredients properly. This is your first marinade!
- Now, add the chicken pieces into it.
- Stir well or use your hands to ensure that the marinade covers all pieces of chicken neatly.
- Cover the bowl and let it marinate for 20-30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, roast besan dry (i.e., with no oil) using a pan, on low heat, until you get its characteristic aroma. Then, set this aside. Allow it to cool.
- In the bowl (same as that of the first marinade), add hung curd, ginger-garlic paste, red chilli powder, turmeric, pepper powder, Kasuri Methi (optional), garam masala, coriander powder, and finally some salt.
- Bring in the dry-roasted besan and put it in the bowl as well.
- All you need is a tbsp of oil and then - it’s time for you to show how good you are at mixing!
- Once done, cover the bowl again, and keep it aside in the fridge to marinate for at least an hour or two.
How do you cook the chicken tikka using an oven?
- First things first! If you like bamboo skewers, soak them in water for about 30 minutes before you use them. Otherwise, they will get burned during grilling.
- Or, you can also go with metal skewers as they turn hot quickly and help the chicken pieces to get cooked from the inside properly. But do use a tong or a pair of gloves to handle the metal skewers.
- Now, preheat the oven at 240°C for a minimum of 15 minutes.
- And while it happens, cut some fresh veggies such as onion, capsicum, mushrooms, zucchini, or baby corn, etc.
- Also, take out the bowl having the second marinade and bring it to the counter. Let it sit for about 30 minutes (and catch up with the room temperature).
- Scoop out the extra marinade and add those veggies into it. Whisk them well.
- Now, thread the chicken pieces and vegetables (alternatively) onto the skewers, giving enough space in between. Arrange them as you find fit.
- Take out a baking tray and fit an aluminium foil tightly to cover its inside. Then, place a rack over it.
- Put the skewers onto this tray. And grill the same for 10 minutes.
- Now, flip the pieces to the other side and rotate the pan 180°. In case you have some marinade remaining, brush it over the chicken pieces and veggies.
- Then, continue grilling the skewers for another 10 to 20 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken pieces used.
- When done, shift the tray to the topmost rack of your oven and grill for about 3-4 minutes again. This formulates the charred-edge texture of the chicken tikkas.
- Finally, take all out and brush them with generous amounts of butter or mustard oil.
[Note, if you are using chicken thighs, you can perhaps skip this step. Or, use very little butter or oil as they are juicy enough. However, with chicken breasts, experts recommend basting the pieces with butter while grilling and turning them. Also, as you put the pieces on the serving plate, brush them all with a big stroke of butter.]
- Don’t forget to sprinkle some chaat masala. Add lemon juice if desired. And there you go - your chicken tikkas are ready to be served.
What if you wish to go with an air fryer?
- Preheat the air fryer for about 3-4 minutes.
- Fit a parchment paper on the basket’s inside. Grease it with little oil - use a brush to do so. Then place the skewers onto it.
- Or, you can directly put the skewers inside the basket and brush oil over them. Just make sure they are not sticking to each other.
- Now, many air fryers come with preset temperature and timer options. So, select the cooking mode you need.
- It will take about half an hour or less for your chicken tikkas to get cooked thoroughly.
- When you hear the timer beep, simply pull open the basket and take the skewers out.
What about the time when you are using a skillet, frying pan, or pot?
- This method comes as a lifesaver when you don’t have an oven. Or, you have forgotten to preheat it but again, you are crazy-hungry for food.
- Now, pan-searing is great as it enables the chicken pieces to cook faster. But there’s a downside to it. There are chances that the meat could dry up. So, be careful.
- Add a little yet liberal amount of oil to the pan as this prevents the yoghurt or lemon juice from clinging onto it much. This also means less grunge for you to clean at the end!
- Just add the chicken pieces and veggies to the pan. Cook all on a medium-high flame till they have acquired the tenderness you want.
- Flip them over (and maybe, brush them with some butter or oil). Let the other sides get a nice searing too!
- You can turn the pieces as and when required. See to it that all sides are cooked decently.
[Note, if you find that the chicken pieces have got a nice brown but still feel somewhat uncooked - this is what you should do. Lower the flame, and gently cook till your chicken tikkas feel tender to your liking.]
- If you want your tikkas to have a charred texture, heat them over the flame directly. As you roast a tikka, allot a few seconds to each side.
- Yes, the chicken tandoori recipe using a pan is this easy. So, get going already!
Ever tried the dhungar method to give a smoky flavour to your dish?
- Heat charcoal over the stove’s flame until it turns hot and red. Then, place it in a small metal bowl. What you have here is an activated piece of coal.
- Keep this bowl of hot coal inside the pan or another big bowl (which has the chicken tikkas kept in it).
[Note, adjust this bowl of coal towards the centre of the pan so that its fumes are distributed uniformly.]
- Add a tsp of ghee or more to the coal.
- Cover the pan with a lid and let it smoke for about 5-10 minutes. After which, discard the piece of coal along with its bowl.
- And that’s all for the dhungar method! The chicken tikkas are ready to go on the serving platter now.
What do you serve the chicken tikka with?
You can go with coriander mint chutney, or slices of onion, or mixed veggie salad and a few lemon wedges, or serve them with saffron rice - whatever suits the occasion best!
You can also make a chicken wrap
It’s simple and fun! Just add the grilled chicken tikkas on roti or paratha (made up of wheat flour or all-purpose flour). Pour in some hung yoghurt and top it with slices of tomatoes and onions. Sprinkle a pinch of chaat masala and with one quick squeeze of lemon juice, it’s ready to serve. If you want, you can pair it with garlic dip or some green chutney.
Pointers to keep in mind while you make chicken tikka at home
- You must use hung curd (or Greek yoghurt) to prepare the second marinade. As any presence of whey can ruin your chicken tikkas and they will no longer stick to the marinades well.
- Gram flour or besan is a key element that makes the chicken tikkas aromatic. You can either use it directly. Or, you can dry roast it or fry it using a bit of oil - at low or medium flame, till it gives off a nutty fragrance. Let it cool for some time and then add it to the second marinade.
- Using food colours is not a healthy option. Instead, look for a good-quality red chilli or paprika powder. One of the most commonly used is Kashmiri or byadgi chilli powder, as they are not that spicy but they add vibrant colour to your dish.
- Be careful around the use of garam masala, as sprinkling more than required can have your chicken tikkas bear a bitter taste. It will be better to start with a mini amount and then adjust accordingly.
- If your garam masala is way too strong or pungent smelling, use some coriander powder in the marinade. It cuts down the intensity of the spices and brings the overall flavour to a decent taste.
- You can reduce the grilling time if chicken thighs are used as they cook faster than chicken breasts.
How to make hung curd at home quickly?
Just follow these simple steps,
- Take a container of a suitable size and place a colander or filter over it.
- Spread a muslin cloth to cover the whole of the filter's inside.
- Add the yoghurt to it.
- Pull up the four corners of the cloth and tie a knot. Then, hang the cloth above the kitchen sink and let it shed away all its whey. Leave it for about 30-45 minutes.
[Note, when you strain the yoghurt, it attains a thick consistency and leaves out a liquid called whey. You can also collect this whey and use it to knead the roti dough.]
- Now, return the cloth (having the yoghurt) onto the filter. Before doing so, you can squeeze it to drain off the liquid part, if any remains.
- Then cover the filter (or colander) with a lid and slide it into the refrigerator for 4-8 hours (depending on the yoghurt used, mainly its texture and fat content).
- Your homemade hung curd is ready to roll. One piece of advice, keep it in the refrigerator till you actually need it on your kitchen counter.
Don’t mix up the two - they are not the same!
As mentioned before, chicken tikkas are cubed pieces of chicken well soaked in spices and yoghurt, and then grilled to secure a good brown and a little charred finish on the surface. It is of course a dry snack.
But chicken tikka masala is a gravy-led side dish, with the chicken tikkas seethed in the gravy (made up of thick tomato sauce and onions added). It goes well with Naan, Lachha Paratha, or even with rice (of any variety).
Now, chicken tikka employs small pieces of boneless meat that you can later thread onto skewers. Moreover, you can prepare chicken tikkas at home, using your oven, microwave, air fryer, or skillet, or pan.
But tandoori chicken involves big pieces of meat with bones. In this case, “Tandoor” (also called “Tannour”) - a traditional clay oven, cylindrical in shape, is used to grill the meat pieces. Sometimes, the marinades also taste different as there could be a change in the set of spices taken up for their preparations.
Chicken tikkas are gluten-free and storehouses of protein. So, if you are at peace with little calories, then these are quite good for your health.
Plus, you can store the marinated tikkas for up to 3-4 days in the refrigerator. This helps, especially when you are inviting many people to your house. What you do is, prepare the chicken tikkas beforehand. And on the day of the occasion, just get them out of the fridge, thaw (if needed), and grill till they obtain the desired texture. That’s it - now go ahead, and serve!
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